My wife and I just got back from a weekend workshop. It was our first in-person event since the Covid lockdown. There were five couples plus a husband-and-wife facilitator duo, or 12 people in all. We were at a small retreat location out in the country, some 12 miles north of Boulder, Colorado, our home. For the most part we wore cloth masks or face shields, had many outside sessions, and practiced social distancing as best we could. The workshop, focused on helping couples live more effectively together, was excellent and well worth the risk. All this by way of context.
My wife and I are almost through the third and final season of the Canadian Broadcasting Company and Netflix’s “Anne with an E,” the wonderful latest dramatization of the first of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” books. In an episode we saw the other day, Anne and her classmates are at a beach to celebrate the completion of the college entrance exam they have taken earlier that day. Sharing a bottle of white spirits of some kind that has launched them into high hilarity, they begin playing Red Rover. So that particular kids’ game is in my head right now.
When I was afraid I was allergic to our lovely calico cat, Zoe, I went to the local allergy clinic to find out. Some 120 pin-pricks later, the doctor told me I wasn’t allergic to cat dander or anything else. I do have some allergies, though, that pin-pricks can’t detect. For example, unphonetic words make me sick. I go into a negative alternate state when I discover a word, especially a foreign one in a language I’m learning, that doesn’t sound like the way it’s spelled.
How can a born Jew, a baptized Christian, and, in order, a confirmed Lutheran, Catholic, and Episcopalian be a Moslem? There’s a literal and a metaphorical answer. First, the literal one. When I was in Morocco in 2001 as an adult facilitator at the World Congress of Youth, our local hosts took a busload of us to see the great Mohammad II Mosque in Casa Blanca. Most mosques are open to people of all faiths but not this one. You had to be Moslem to get in. Since as a non-Moslem I knew a lot about the religion Muhammad had founded, our main host, a young woman, said to her male colleagues, “He’s Moslem enough for this place. Take him in by the men’s entrance.” So, in I went. Minutes later a mosque official stopped me: “Excuse me, Monsieur. Are you Moslem?” I recited the Moslem Confession of Faith in Arabic. “Ah, welcome to our mosque,” he said. Since I had offered that short sentence in the presence of three male Moslems—the official and my two hosts—I was both physically and officially in.
It started right outside my window, about 50 feet away, where there are two half-dead cottonwood trees. The taller, more westward trunk had a bark-free area close to the top at the place the tree-man had sawed off a dead section. Several inches below the top, a perfectly round hole started to appear. No, it wasn’t magic let alone a massive rear-end invasion by a swarm of angry bees. But in a way it was magic and flying critters were involved. I doubt, though, that they were angry. What happened is that a pair of persistent flickers, wood-pecking birds, had decided on making a nest there.
The pandemic has caused us, like others, to up our TV screen time. So now, instead of watching the PBS Newshour only on Fridays, mainly to hear Brooks’ and Shields’ latest wisdom, we tune in every night, even sometimes for the half-hour Weekend edition. Then, we’re finding our way to our Apple TV clicker way more than in the good, old pre-Covid days. Mainly we go to Netflix. First there was Outlanders—who can resist the steamy romance of Jamie and Clare?—then Unorthodox, and now we’re a third the way through Season 2 of Anne with an E, the newish CBC-Netflix screen version of Anne of Green Gables.
W. T. Stace in his writing about mysticism offers a helpful definition. Mysticism, says he, is “first-person religion.” As I wrote the, uh, first word in the last sentence, my fingers played a trick on me as they frequently do and capitalized the first TWO letters. The result: MYsticism. Well, that’s the point. Sometimes you just have to go there yourself. Tom Paine in his Age of Reason takes this concept a step further. Revelation, he writes, is only for the person who received it and mere hearsay for everyone else. (No quotation marks here since I’m quoting from memory, but I’m sure the wording is at least 90% accurate.)
A walk a day keeps the doctor away.
Or so we hope during this new year of the plague. In any case, Cedar, my wife, and I schedule in a walk every day. It usually lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, although once a pressing need—I can say no more!—caused us to return home after a mere seven minutes. Yesterday in fact, Mother’s Day Sunday, we stayed out a whole 80 minutes, 20 to be sure while standing at a safe distance from one of Cedar’s Earthsong friends, whose house we were passing, to discuss and solve affairs domestic and international. One of Boulder’s many benefits is that, as a small city of 110,000, it’s hard to go anyway, even in these days of Safer at Home, without meeting someone you know.
The Twelve-Step slogan “One Day at a Time” has taken on new meaning for me during the pandemic. Briefly, I have begun to do a number of the same things every day. I don’t mean the regular daily things like meals, showers, biology breaks, etc. I still do those, of course. Life requires most of them. No. I mean things like daily walks of 30 minutes to an hour with Cedar, my wife. Today’s, for example, lasted 50 minutes. We take turns devising our itineraries and compete with each other not to repeat prior routes.
By Reynold Ruslan Feldman (April 2020)
(sung to the tune of “Matchmaker”)
MASKMAKER, MASKMAKER, MAKE ME A MASK.
NO NEED TO ASK—JUST MAKE ME A MASK.
MASKMAKER, MASKMAKER, MAKE ME A MASK.
PLEASE MAKE ME A PERFECT MASK.